Knitting vs. Sewing

Some days I worry that my love of yarn is overtaking my love of fabric. I do believe they can co-exist, but there are only so many hours in the day and if I’m knitting, then I’m not sewing (and vice-versa). But these cooler temps seem to call out for sitting in my chair, feet up and a cup of something warm by my side, knitting away on some rich, beautiful yarn.

Finished (but not blocked) Low Brow Cowl: Pattern on Ravelry, Madeline Tosh DK yarn

I’ve also really enjoyed upping my skill level and trying techniques that are new to me. I have had the grand advantage of working at Home Ec Workshop on Wednesday afternoons, when Lisa Wilcox Case serves as the Knitting Nurse. Lisa is a certified Master Knitter (I wrote about that here) and when it’s not busy in the shop she freely gives of her advice and expertise. Suffice it to say, I am spoiled (but I’ve learned a lot, too).

Sugar Cane Hat: Pattern on Ravelry, Shibui Pebble and Silk Cloud yarn

I’m going to have a bit more time for sewing and knitting in upcoming days as there’s some surgery on my horizon that will necessitate me staying home for two or three weeks. I’ve got work lined up, of course, but I won’t be fulfilling my usual exercise classes, grocery runs, and other out-of-the-house activities, so I imagine more free time will be mine. I’m already lining up sewing and knitting projects—I’m in a real mode of wanting to finish those WIPs. We’ll see how it goes.

Imposter Shawl: Pattern on Ravelry, Madeline Tosh DK yarn

Tiny Bits

I’ve decided that while I’m finishing up my book (see previous post, numeral 1), the only way Pearl the Squirrel posts will exist is if they’re short and sweet. So here starts the beginning of a photo, a phrase, or a project per post. My expectations need to be low if I’m going to continue. (Yours probably already are, given the delinquency of this blog.)

So today, for your viewing pleasure, a baby blanket I knitted for my friend’s sweet baby girl. The only good thing about the very cool spring we’re having is that she’ll get to use it a little before it gets very warm, since though we had her baby shower in December, I didn’t manage to get this to her until last week. (It’s also got grey on the sides, which you can’t see in the photos. It’s knit with Classic Elite Yarns Toboggan.)

Sweet dreams!

Held Together by Knitting

Last week was horrific: bombings, explosions, the death and maiming of innocent bystanders and volunteer firefighters. On top of it, the weather was dismal—grey for days on end, nearly 5 inches of rain in 24 hours resulting in flooded homes, and north of us there as a snow storm. Nature didn’t offer the respite we needed after days of manmade horror.

I was supposed to go to my aunt’s house for her 87th birthday, but decided to put it off until the weather was more favorable. It’s not as though I didn’t have plenty of work to fill those delayed days, and not as if I didn’t know that it was unhealthy to watch the endless news coverage on television and online, but I found myself drawn in. I heard the media’s reports on the dance instructor, the recently married couple, and the two brothers who’d lost their legs. I saw the images of the Boston bombing repeated in a continual loop. I listened to stories about the volunteer firefighters who rushed into the fertilizer plant in Texas and perished. I even thought of the sorrow of the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers. So many lives damaged. So many lives ended.

And through it all, I knit. I knit back and forth on an Elfin Baby Bonnet in pale pink. I repeatedly knit rows of the 208-stitch-long Dovetail Cowl. When I finished it, I started another. It seemed to be one of the only things that made sense. Creating something in the face of so much destruction brought a modicum of comfort. When so much of life seems so far beyond control, I knit. It’s not all I do. But it’s what I did last week.

A Trifle for Saturday Morning: My Knitted Boyfriend

Yes, I am currently knitting-obsessesed. Blocking my Dovetail Cowl and knitting another Elfin baby bonnet. Stumbled across this this morning. If you need about five-and-a-half minutes of distraction from the events of this crazy week, settle back with your cup of coffee to view one woman’s solution to finding a man who will never leave you:


MY KNITTED BOYFRIEND from Noortje de Keijzer on Vimeo.

Master Knitters on Etsy

Lisa Wilcox Case

It’s a little after the fact, but I thought I’d share some of the photos I shot for the master knitting certification post that went live on Etsy. Etsy’s discovered that a large number of their visitors are accessing the site through mobile media, and that’s changed the kinds of photos they need–big, bold and graphic reads much better than detailed. So a number of these just didn’t cut it.

Lisa’s intarsia sample

But I wanted to share them with you because I think the master knitting process is impressive, and Lisa Wilcox Case’s notebooks are amazing. Filled with reports and samples, they really demonstrated her abilities, as well as the requirements for being a master knitter through The Knitting Guild Association.

Lisa’s final project for master knitter certification

The other part of the master knitting story that was fun for me was that I was having a heck of a time finding a second source to talk with. I went to lunch at a local restaurant and was chatting with the owner, who I’ve known for years, about what her daughter was up to. Her daughter, Taylor, had been in my class when I taught at a Montessori school many years ago. She described how Taylor was getting ready to graduate from college, thinking about various careers and then said, “Oh, and she’s getting master knitting certification.” So funny! So I contacted Taylor (who shared a couple of photos that I’ve included, as well).

Lisa demonstrates a cable technique

One thing that struck me was how different the personalities of these two women seem, yet how they both want to be (or in Lisa’s case, are) Master Knitters. Lisa’s been a librarian and an endodontist–methodical, detail-oriented, exacting. Taylor seems to be much more of a free spirit, but she’s enjoying the challenge as well.

Hope you enjoy these!

Samples in Lisa’s certification notebooks
Lisa at work (she knit the sweater she’s wearing)
Lisa’s entrelac sample
Taylor wearing a hat she knit
Cowl knit by Taylor

Taylor’s yarn bombing on the Cornell College campus

No Turkey Duties? Try Knitting a Snoflinga…or Four

This Thanksgiving we decided to make a quick trip to Southern California to see my folks, and my youngest daughter was able to join us. (Sadly, my eldest daughter had to work—while I often rhapsodize about the joys of having adult children, it’s not always so great when they have those adult responsibilities!) Still, we managed to have a lovely time, enjoying the weather (we ate Thanksgiving dinner al fresco), the company, a few walks along the ocean, and poking about in the tide pools on Thanksgiving day.

Snoflinga in Rowan Lima

And I was a knitting maniac. Between the flight delays and flights themselves, there was lots of time sitting around. And though I was first sad when my dad said we’d go out for Thanksgiving dinner, I ended up thoroughly enjoying not doing any dishes or fretting over side dishes being done at the same time as the turkey. My dad and daughter made two pies and that was the extent of Turkey Day meal prep.

The Bean trains in pie-making with the master baker—Popsie

Below are a few photos of the weekend, including the hats. The pattern is Jenny Gordy’s Snoflinga (available here). It’s super fun to knit because it’s easy, but not boring. There are enough elements of change (including bobbles, which I simply love) to keep it interesting. I think the hat is most effective in a simple yarn, so that the lovely details show up, but I’m a sucker for variegation. I do wish my knitting was a little more even, though. Despite knitting gauge swatches for most of the hats, they vary tremendously in size. One’s too big even for my big head, and that’s after popping it in the dryer for a bit. Well, at least they’re not as enormous as previous knitting debacles.

Message to our missing family member
Snoflinga in Cascade Eco Duo
Sea anemone courtesy of Rebecca
Snoflinga in Malabrigo Rios
Father-daughter team catch some Thanksgiving rays
Mother-daughter team check out the tide pools
Snoflinga in Malabrigo Twist
The ‘rents anticipating their Thanksgiving feast

Back to School: The Pleasures and Purposes of Taking Craft Classes

The newspaper pattern we created to make a-line skirts

 I am one of those people who can’t resist things. I cut out myriad recipes, planning to try luscious-sounding new foods; I get intrigued by threads of conversation that lead to story ideas and want to follow through and write them all; and of course, I’m a sucker for every new crafting idea that comes my way. As someone who writes about artists and designers, that’s a heck of a lot of ideas.

Granny square class

For me, taking classes is one of the best ways to give in to my multi-crafting urge. I can buy books and materials, but actually sitting down and committing a several-hour block of time to use them is hard. There is something about paying for a class and putting it on my calendar that gives me permission to devote the time to trying something new.

South African embroidery in progress

In the past couple of months I’ve taken two classes taught by Alisa at Home Ec—one sewing a skirt (from a pattern we learned to make ourselves!) and another on crocheting a granny square (something I’d done in college, but not since). Also at Home Ec I took a class on South African embroidery (taught by Catherine Redford), and knitting a hat (taught by Jenny Gordy). I’ve done all these things previously in one form or another, but in each class I was reminded of what I enjoyed about that particular craft and I learned something new (last week in my hat class Jenny taught us a cool way to join stitches while knitting on circular needles). I get to handle new materials and use some old ones (I’d bought the fabric for my skirt at a Quilt Market six months ago, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.)

Jenny Gordy (Wiksten) hat with bobbles

So here are photos from my classes—I finished the skirt the same afternoon I started it, but the other projects aren’t yet finished. Those resulting UFOs are probably one of the biggest problems with taking classes. I sometimes question whether flitting from craft-to-craft is wise—after all, I have at least five unfinished quilt projects in my sewing room just waiting for me to devote time and attention to them. But I tell myself that some day these skills will all be waiting for me, as will the time to use them.

Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers! Hope you find some time to sit and stitch this coming weekend.

Yarn Bombing in Iowa

 Sunday was the culmination of a several-month event spearheaded by the Downtown Association in Iowa City. The idea was to organize a yarn bombing of downtown trees as a public art project and way to involve the community.

It was a whopping success—the first 97 trees were quickly snapped up by knitting volunteers, and Home Ec Workshop, which coordinated the yarn kits, pulled together more tree measurements and yarn with the help of other downtown businesses. The assignment was to knit a five-foot piece from the “approved” yarns (purchased by the Downtown Assn. and an anonymous donor). I misunderstood and thought I needed to try and get my yarn to go as far as it could, so I opted for simple stockinette and some stripes, but boy, oh, boy, was my tree plain compared to many. There were cables and bobbles and embroidery and myriad stitches and imagery knitting in—a spider, hearts, leaves. The results are amazing and here are a few of them.

End of an Era

I’ve talked previously about my inability to focus solely one “craft” and the way that I get so excited about new classes where I might try something out. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing, but the downside of it is that I wind up with materials and supplies that aren’t getting used.

For two decades before I called myself a quilter, I was a weaver and spinner. A few years ago I finally sold my loom, but mounds of yarn remained. It took my neighbor Pam, who wanted to check my weaving yarn stash, to help me get brave enough and organized enough to finally sell it and a couple weekends ago we had a killer yarn sale. We sorted wool from cotton from silk and priced things at less than half the going retail rate. Pam told her weaving guild about the sale, I mentioned it at our quilt guild meeting, and Paul posted signs around the neighborhood. The weather was unseasonably lovely for a March morning, and we sat out in the driveway surrounded by tables of yarn sorted by color.

Though we were quite amused by a few of the people who read the “yarn sale” signs as “yard sale,” and stopped dead in their tracks when the saw the tables full of wool, mohair, cotton, and silk, the best part was how happy people were with their purchases. Any textile aficionado can relate to the thrill of getting a steal-of-a-deal on new materials, and I loved when people told me what they planned to make, or the way something would combine perfectly with their stash at home.

Despite having sold pounds and pounds of yarn, I was left with quite a bit at the end of the morning. I put an ad on Craigslist that night—$100 takes all. By the time I got home from dinner at 10 pm I had a taker, and she arrived the next day to pick it all up and take it home to her daughters, who were just learning to weave and knit. She sent me an email that evening, letting me know that one daughter was knitting, the other finger-knitting, and they were all dreaming of what they’d do with the rest. It was so hard to admit that it was time to let the yarn go and so it was especially lovely to know that what sat on my studio shelves for years was inspiring others to create.

How about you? Have you ever admitted it was the “end of an era” and divested yourself of supplies? Did you miss them? Or was it a good thing?

Flippin’ Knitting

Last spring, a woman at a meeting sat next to me with the loveliest scarf. It was short and flippy on the ends and had the most charming little bobbles. I complimented her on it and lo and behold, the very next week (okay, so the meeting was Weight Watchers), she brought a copy of the pattern for me. A total stranger did this. I love people who love textiles.

The pattern is by Kat Coyle (just found her blog and it is well worth a visit—a super-talented designer with a bold and bright color sense—her lace knits are lovely) and was originally in Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2007. You can find it on Ravelry here.

 I made the red one in the spring for myself and was delighted to learn how to wrap and knit stitches and make bobbles…two new skills to accompany my learning to knit cables earlier this year. I settled on Blue Sky Sport Weight 100% Baby Alpaca from Home Ec—very cozy against my neck and it knitted fairly quickly. I decided to knit one in green for my Minnesota sister for her early June birthday. I’m feeling a little sheepish that I just finished it and sent it off, but she probably wouldn’t have gotten much use out of it in July and August, anyway. (The colors really don’t look nearly as rich in the photo as they are in person.)

And did I keep going to Weight Watchers? Well, yes, for awhile. But I got derailed by Italy, visitors, vacation at the lake, etc. Will. return. soon.